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Pernod Ricard breaks ground on $150 million whisky distillery in China

Pernod Ricard has officially broken ground on the site of China’s first malt whisky distillery from an international spirits and wine group, which is set to open in 2021.

Based in Emeishan, Sichuan, the French drinks giant is planning to invest of one billion RMB (US$150 million) on the 13-hectare distillery site over the next ten years, which will also include an immersive visitor centre to draw in more tourists to the area. Pernod Ricard has said it hopes to attract more than 2 million tourists within the first decade of its opening.

Tracy Kwan, vice president of marketing at Pernod Ricard Asia, said the group spent three years searching for a location and looking for the suitable architects to execute the project.

“Finally we got attracted to the climate, pristine water source and nature of Emeishan region and thanks to the support of the government, we decided to settle down here.”

The distillery, which will be designed by China-based architect Neri&Hu, will contain whisky production equipment made in the UK.

The facility will start its production in 2021, and the first batch of release is expected in 2023.

According to the law in China, the minimum years of whisky ageing is 2 years, however Jean-Etiene Gourgues said the team “still have to see what is the natural terroir going to offer by then, before making decision on the release.” Jean-Etienne Gourgues, Managing Director of Pernod Ricard China, said at the opening ceremony.

The Emeishan Malt Whisky Distillery will also be first in the world to appoint a Chinese master distiller, according to Pernod Ricard, fusing “authentic whisky-making craftsmanship and local knowledge to create an iconic malt whisky.”

Pernod Ricard’s CEO Alexandre Ricard said the group’s sales in its Asian markets performed well above expectations in this year’s annual results, with China in particular showing “outstanding growth”.

Gourgues said the whisky will be mainly made for the Chinese market, “so we wish to create the whisky that is palatable for local drinkers with Chinese elements.”

In addition, the architects have been tasked with creating a “new cultural icon” in Sichuan that “celebrates the local culture and the brand’s spirit of innovation, at the same time showing respect to heritage of the region that goes in line with the group’s global principles on sustainability & responsibility.”

Philippe Guettat, Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard Asia, said the groundbreaking of the distillery “signifies the beginning of a journey of innovation, expertise and dedication to craft a new, iconic malt whisky that embraces whisky history and heritage with a character unique to Chinese culture.

“It is both the symbol of our strong history with China after three decades of operation and the sign of our deep confidence into the future of international style spirits in this fascinating market.

“We’re proud to be part of China’s fabric and contributing to the sustainable growth of its economy and society, by transferring whisky-making expertise to the people, credibility to the region and the spirit of conviviality to visitors and consumers alike.”

Pernod Ricard has been bolstering its presence in the whiskey sector this year. The group announced plans to acquire alcohol manufacturer and marketer Castle Brands for approximately US$223 million this morning (29 August). As part of the deal, Pernod will add drinks brands including Jefferson’s Bourbon, Goslings rum, Brady’s Irish Cream, The Arran single malt Scotch and Clontarf Irish whiskey to its portfolio.

It also secured a deal to acquire Texas-based Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co, producer of TX whiskey and Bourbon, this month.

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